I am having real problems updating my blog which is somewhat frustrating. I seem to have lost all my postings since Kolkata so here is a quick resume and a few photos.
Whilst the cars were being trucked north we travelled 95 km south to visit the Sunderbans, the largest delta in the world and home to the largest community of Bengal tigers. It took over 3 hours in the bus which gives you some idea of the challenges of driving in India. Despite its fame the Sunderbans get relatively few tourist visitors and therefore the infrastructure is somewhat basic. However the camp was clean, the food good and the beers plentiful.
Due to the shortage of tigers and the thickness of the mangrove it is very rare to actually see tiger. However there is plenty of other wildlife to see including multiple other cats, deer, boar, amazing birds and crocs. Nothing ventured nothing gained we spent the day before yesterday onboard boat and climbing watchtowers.
Both evening the locals had laid on entertainment. The first night was an evening of local dancing which Alice would have enjoyed, the second an evening of high drama. Audience participation is encouraged so Xavier joined the dancing and Paddy led the somewhat pantomimesc participation during the drama. I will not try and tell you what happened but there was a tiger and a crocodile involved.
We visited the local village which has been rebuilt since its cyclone Isla in 2009. One cannot help but feel guilty about how fortunate we all are. The villagers were incredibly uncynical with their visitors which I think reflect how few foreigners visit.
The team seems to be bedding down with newbees quickly settling into the relentless high quality and highly amusing banter.
We left the Sunderbans at 6am yesterday to drive back to Kolkata airport to fly to Siliguri and collect the cars. Although the bus journey was slow the journey was relatively painless. You learn very quickly the the most uncomfortable seats are those at the back of the bus directly above the rear axle. Unfortunately those were ours!
We arrived in Siliguri at about 4pm to find all the cars unpacked and ready to go. The Buick started first time like the elderly lady she quite clearly is. One of the great things about the trucks, buses and tuk tuks is the volume and quality of the customised paint works. You've guessed it but more on this later.
Poor Xaviers petrol can had leaked so his boot was full of fuel. A nuisance but nothing more until Ines's bags get put in there.
I had such an interesting chat with our guide before dinner and he is organising a visit for Paddy and I to Dr Graham's Home in Kalimpong which is where Alice's grandmother helped and from where Henry Haversham set off into Bhutan.
The evening started with Paddy and I visiting the local shop to buy some local kit which is being made for us today. Then it was drinks curtesy of the hotel, probably a rash move on their part but very kind and then diner. Afterwards we had tuk tuk racing which was hilarious. Joint winners were Maria and Chris. Paddy and Ines went the wrong way and Xavier and I never really got going getting confused at the start! Very funny and no damage done. At midnight we visited the local Hindu paper as it went to print which was fantastic. It's owned by the hotel owner who runs it as an independent newspaper dedicated to telling the truth.
Shakedown day today so we will get out and about as soon as we can.
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